Below Are From the WA Insurance Commissioners Web Site.
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Mandatory Auto Insurance Law
What is the Mandatory Auto Insurance Law?
The law requires anyone driving a motor vehicle in our state to have an insurance liability policy, a certificate of deposit, or a liability bond to the required limits. If you have 26 or more vehicles, you can self-insure.
Under the law, you’re required to have a liability policy with limits of at least 25/50/10. This means:
- $25,000 for injury to another person
- $50,000 for injuries to all other persons
- $10,000 for damage to another’s property
You must carry the same limits if you choose to buy a bond instead of an insurance policy. If you use a certificate of deposit, you must deposit $60,000 in cash or securities with the Office of the State Treasurer. If you’re insuring 26 or more vehicles, you can self-insure through the Washington State Department of Licensing.
Proof of Insurance
If you’re stopped by a law enforcement officer, you must present an insurance identification card showing that either the vehicle or you are insured.
Your insurance company must provide you with an identification card when they issue or renew your motor vehicle liability policy. At your request, the company will provide a card or temporary proof of insurance for each vehicle covered under your policy.
The insurance identification card must include the name of the insurance company, the policy number, and the policy’s effective and expiration dates. It also needs to include a description of the insured vehicle(s) and/or the name of the insured driver.
If you do not carry proof of insurance and you are stopped by law enforcement, the state considers it a traffic infraction. You will receive a $450 fine that could go on your driving record. The courts could add other fees to your fines, such as a public safety and education assessment, which is 70 percent of all fines.
Even drivers registered in other states who drive in Washington must comply with Washington’s Mandatory Auto Insurance Law.
Out-of-state drivers who plan to drive in Washington should check their policies. Most policies include a broadening clause that raises the liability limits to the minimum of the particular state they’re driving in.
Some vehicles, including motorcycles, are exempt from the Mandatory Auto Insurance Law
- Specially licensed “antique vehicles” over 40 years old
- “Collector’s vehicles” over 30 years old
- Publicly-owned vehicles (vehicles owned, rented or leased by state, federal, city, county, and town governments, school districts and political subdivisions)
- Vehicles registered with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission as common or contract carriers (any truck that hauls for payment)
- Motor-driven cycles, such as motor scooters
Regardless of this exemption, all drivers are subject to the state’s Financial Responsibility Law. This law requires the person who is responsible for the damage or injury to pay the loss.
Special note: The Mandatory Auto Insurance law is under the authority of the Department of Licensing.
Understanding Your Auto Insurance Policy
Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. It spells out exactly what the company agrees to do in exchange for the premium that you pay. This contract is divided into two sections: a declarations page and the policy itself.
The declarations page
This section of the policy includes basic details of the agreement. It is important that you review this page to make sure all the information is correct and all the coverages you requested are included.
The declarations page includes:
- Name of the insurance company
- Name(s) of the policyholder(s)
- Policy numberPolicy period
- Description of the vehicle(s) insured
- Coverages purchased
- Limits of liability and deductibles purchased
- Premium charge for each coverage
- List of forms that are a part of the policy
The second part of your insurance contract is the policy itself. This includes:
- Insuring agreement
- When and where coverage applies
- Conditions if the vehicle is financed
- General conditionsMutual conditions
- Exceptions and endorsements of the policy
Make sure you review your declarations page to verify that your policy includes the types and amounts of coverage you requested.
Types of coverage
There are many different types of coverages available to meet your auto insurance needs. Some are required and some are optional. Here are brief descriptions of the available coverages:
Washington state requires liability coverage. This covers bodily injury and damage to property that you cause to others while using your car.
Personal injury protection
This covers a limited amount of medical and hospital costs, income continuation, funeral expenses, and loss of services. Coverage limits are defined in the policy.
This covers medical and funeral expenses (not all companies offer this coverage).
Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
This covers injuries an uninsured or underinsured driver causes to an insured person.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage
This covers property damage an uninsured or underinsured driver causes to your insured vehicle.
This covers damage to your car that is caused by a collision.
Comprehensive coverage (other than collision)
This covers damage to your car — except by collision. For example, this covers your car if a tree falls on it or someone vandalizes it.
Emergency road service
This covers towing when your car breaks down.
Car rental expense
If you have a claim that is covered under your auto policy, this coverage pays to rent a car. Be sure to check your policy for any limitations.
Death, dismemberment and loss of sight
This pays for death and certain injuries to people named in your policy due to an auto accident.
In the event your vehicle is a total loss, this pays the difference between the current market value of your auto and the amount you still owe the lender.
Custom equipment coverage
This covers direct and accidental loss to custom furnishings or equipment. Many companies also offer other endorsements (additional coverage). Ask your insurance agent or broker about:
- Trailer/camper body coverage
- Snowmobile coverage
- Limited Mexico coverage
- Joint ownership coverage
- Auto loan/lease coverage
Remember to check your declarations page to verify the coverage you purchased.
Types of coverage
Many insurers offer auto insurance in Washington state. Under state law, insurers may consider your age, driving record, where you live, credit history, and other factors to decide if they will offer you coverage. Not every insurer will offer you coverage. If an agent or broker is unable to find coverage for you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an insurer willing to cover you. No single agent or broker will have access to all auto insurers doing business in Washington state. There are three segments of the auto insurance market you should know about:
This market features the lowest premiums and it is available to low-risk drivers with exceptional driving records.
This market refers to the average driver who uses family-type cars and has a reasonably good driving record.
This market includes young drivers with less experience, drivers with multiple tickets or accidents, and drivers with reckless or drunk driving histories.
Most insurers offer coverage that falls into the standard or the preferred markets. A few corporations have several companies within their group and establish tiers that range from the preferred market to the non-standard market.We cannot recommend or suggest specific companies, but we can offer tips to help you shop for auto insurance.
Regardless of how you shop or whose services you choose, it is important to do your homework in advance. You should:
- Know what types and limits of coverage you need
- Ensure you’re dealing with an authorized company and a licensed agent or broker
- Make sure you have the make, model and other details of the vehicle you wish to insure
- Answer any questions about your driving record and accident history fully and accurately
- Shop for customer service and price
Agents and brokers selling insurance in Washington must be licensed with our agency. We regulate nearly 85,000 licensees. Some are employed exclusively by a specific insurer, while others work independently. You can find agents and brokers:
- in the Yellow Pages of your local phone book
- through referrals from friends and family
- on the Internet
Insurance can be a sophisticated product. You need to do your homework and shop the market, regardless of whether you buy in the traditional manner or online.
What to do if you can’t find auto coverage
Some drivers have a hard time obtaining insurance. This can result from a number of factors, including a poor driving record, type of vehicle, claims history, experience, etc.There are insurance companies that write non-standard policies in this state.They include:
- Financial Indemnity
- Guaranty National
- Viking Insurance Company of Wisconsin
Most of these companies have pricing for all drivers. Prefered and Non-Standard
If your driving record prevents you from obtaining a policy in the non-standard market, your agent or broker will contact the Automobile Insurance Plan on your behalf. More than 55 years ago, the Washington State Legislature created this plan to provide auto insurance coverage to high-risk drivers who are unable to find coverage. To qualify for this special coverage, you must:
- Be a Washington state resident or a member of the U.S. military
- Hold a valid Washington state driver’s license
- Not have any debt from previous auto insurance coverage
What to do if you can’t find auto coverage
Auto insurance cost is a major concern to Washington’s drivers. Insurance companies must submit their rate requests to our agency for review. These requests must include enough financial information (actuarial-based) to verify the need for the requested rate. If we are satisfied with the rate information, we must approve the request.
Insurance companies can rate all licensed drivers in the household — the policyholder and his or her spouse, and other household members, whether or not they are related by blood. This includes roommates. As a result, insurers generally base their premiums on all household members.
Insurance companies base auto rates on a variety of factors. The premium you pay consists of a base rate. The base rate is adjusted based on factors such as your age, sex, marital status, driving pattern, claims history, location, credit history, and the make, model and year of your vehicle. When you shop for auto insurance, remember that each company uses these factors differently.
Statistics show drivers under the age of 25 have more accidents than adults between age 25 and 65. As a result, insurers charge young drivers and families with young drivers in the household higher rates. Statistics also show that senior citizens are more likely to be involved in an accident.
Young men under the age of 25 are involved in more accidents per miles driven than any other population group. Washington state law allows insurance companies to charge based on gender and age when statistics indicate a greater risk.
Statistically, married couples have fewer accidents than singles and generally pay lower rates.
Generally, the more expensive your vehicle, the more you will pay for comprehensive and collision coverage. Also, because sports cars and high-performance cars are involved in more accidents, cost more to repair, and are stolen more often, they cost more to insure.
A higher number of accidents in a highly populated area will raise both liability and collision premiums. Higher crime rates in urban areas can also raise premiums for comprehensive coverage. The law also allows companies to base your rates on your address (where you keep your car), even though you may drive to a more urban or rural area.
The number of miles you drive per year can increase your rates. For example, if you drive a total of 7,000 miles in a year, you will normally pay lower rates than if you drive 15,000 miles in a year. Insurance companies consider the distance you commute to work as additional miles you add to your non-commuting, pleasure miles.
Driving record and claims history
Most companies apply a surcharge to drivers involved in an accident or convicted of multiple traffic violations. Likewise, the more claims you file, the more likely your rates will increase.
Under federal law (Fair Credit Reporting Act), insurance companies can use credit history as one factor that impacts your auto rate. They may assign you an insurance score based on your credit history. They use your score as one factor to decide whether to accept or decline your coverage, or how much to charge you. However, the Insurance Commissioner believes that the use of credit information in insurance is inherently unfair and in 2002, he requested a bill to limit its use. The law limits the use of certain information in credit scoring. For more information, check out our section on credit scoring on the Web at: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/consumers/credit/index.shtml
How to reduce your rates
Here are several options for saving money on auto insurance while making sure that you have adequate coverage:
Each insurance company has unique financial goals and costs. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to find rate differences between companies for the exact same coverage. The cheapest insurance may not provide you with the degree of coverage you need. It is a good idea to discuss your coverage with your agent or insurance company.
Select the right car
The type of auto you own has a direct influence on your insurance costs. Before you buy an auto, check with your agent or broker to find out how much it will cost to insure..
Select higher deductibles
The amount of the deductible you select will affect your auto rate. For example, you may save money by increasing your collision and comprehensive deductibles from $100 to $500.To help keep your premiums down, you may want to think about paying for smaller claims yourself and using your insurance to only pay for larger claims.
Ask each agent or company if they offer special discounts. They often offer discounts to young drivers who are good students or who have completed a driver?s education course. Many companies will give you a discount on your auto premiums if you also insure your house through the same company. Insurance companies are required by state law to give discounts to seniors, age 55 and older, who complete safe driving courses. For a list of courses, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing at: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/seniors.html.
Your coverage may overlap in some areas, such as medical, collision, and uninsured motorist property damage. Ask your agent or broker to explain your coverage and advise you if you are duplicating coverage.
Buying collision/comprehensive coverage
If you don’t think you could afford to fix your car yourself if it was involved in an accident, you may want to carry collision and comprehensive coverage. These coverages protect owners of expensive and late-model autos against the cost of repairs. Though coverage may increase your rates, you may want to think about it if the difference in what you pay would exceed your ability to pay the repair bills. Your lender may require these coverages until you’ve paid off your car.